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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Declines to Enter a Plea

(CN) - Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deferred entering a plea Tuesday on charges of desertion and misbehavior related to his Taliban captivity, which ended in a prisoner swap.

Bergdahl's arraignment Tuesday at a military base in Fort Bragg, N.C., marked the 29-year-old first appearance before a military judge.

After Army Judge Col. Christopher Fredrikson read Bergdahl his rights, which include his right to be tried before a panel or a military judge, Bergdahl did not enter any motions or plea.

Bergdahl did request that civilian lawyer Eugene Fidell and military lawyer Capt. Frank Rosenblatt continue representing him.

There will be another next hearing on Jan. 12, 2016, at which Bergdahl can enter a plea.

It's been a long road for the Idaho native who spent five years imprisoned by a Taliban-linked network of terrorists after vanishing from his combat outpost in Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009.

The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2014, that it had freed Bergdahl, the last U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan, by trading him for five Taliban members being held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay.

The story of Bergdahl's capture and his controversial release has remained subject to intense scrutiny and has deeply divided the American public.

In its most recent episode, the popular podcast "Serial" shared an interview with a Taliban member about Bergdahl's abduction.

"A dead soldier was worth nothing, but he was captured alive," the Taliban source said. "He was like a golden chicken."

Focusing its second season on Bergdahl's case, "Serial" released the first installment of its podcast days before the Army announced plans to court-martial him.

That premiere marked the first time Bergdahl, now on active duty at a military base in San Antonio, has opened up about his disappearance.

The soldier recounted walking away from his Army base describing the isolating torture he faced, and compared himself to Jason Bourne, the hero of a series of Robert Ludlum novels and films made from them.

"I was trying to prove to myself, to the world, that I was capable of being that person," Bergdahl said. "Doing what I did was saying I am like Jason Bourne. I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing."

At a two-day preliminary hearing in September, prosecutors painted Bergdahl as a deserter who must be held accountable for walking away from his duties and single-handedly altering U.S. operations in Afghanistan in the succeeding five-year search for answers.

The hearing officer, Lt. Col. Mark A. Visger, has recommended that Bergdahl's case be referred to a lower-level special court-martial but that he receive no jail time.

Visger's recommendation was forwarded to Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command and Bergdahl's convening authority, who decided to bring Bergdahl to a full court-martial.

Bergdahl could face up to life in a military prison if convicted.

Army Judge Col. Jeffery R. Nance will preside over all future judicial hearings at Fort Bragg, military officials said.

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